8. But how didst thou speak? Was it in the same manner in which the voice came from the cloud saying, "This is my beloved Son"? For that voice sounded forth and died away; it began and ended. The syllables sounded and passed away, the second after the first, the third after the second, and thence in order, till the very last after all the rest; and silence after the last. From this it is clear and plain that it was the action of a creature, itself in time, which sounded that voice, obeying thy eternal will. And what these words were which were formed at that time the outer ear conveyed to the conscious mind, whose inner ear lay attentively open to thy eternal Word. But it compared those words which sounded in time with thy eternal word sounding in silence and said: "This is different; quite different! These words are far below me; they are not even real, for they fly away and pass, but the Word of my God remains above me forever." If, then, in words that sound and fade away thou didst say that heaven and earth should be made, and thus _madest_ heaven and earth, then there was already some kind of corporeal creature _before_ heaven and earth by whose motions in time that voice might have had its occurrence in time. But there was nothing corporeal before the heaven and the earth; or if there was, then it is certain that already, without a time-bound voice, thou hadst created whatever it was out of which thou didst make the time-bound voice by which thou didst say, "Let the heaven and the earth be made!" For whatever it was out of which such a voice was made simply did not exist at all until it was made by thee. Was it decreed by thy Word that a body might be made from which such words might come?
9. Thou dost call us, then, to understand the Word -- the God who is God with thee -- which is spoken eternally and by which all things are spoken eternally. For what was first spoken was not finished, and then something else spoken until the whole series was spoken; but all things, at the same time and forever. For, otherwise, we should have time and change and not a true eternity, nor a true immortality. This I know, O my God, and I give thanks. I know, I confess to thee, O Lord, and whoever is not ungrateful for certain truths knows and blesses thee along with me. We know, O Lord, this much we know: that in the same proportion as anything is not what it was, and is what it was not, in that very same proportion it passes away or comes to be. But there is nothing in thy Word that passes away or returns to its place; for it is truly immortal and eternal. And, therefore, unto the Word coeternal with thee, at the same time and always thou sayest all that thou sayest. And whatever thou sayest shall be made is made, and thou makest nothing otherwise than by speaking. Still, not all the things that thou dost make by speaking are made at the same time and always.
10. Why is this, I ask of thee, O Lord my God? I see it after a fashion, but I do not know how to express it, unless I say that everything that begins to be and then ceases to be begins and ceases when it is known in thy eternal Reason that it ought to begin or cease -- in thy eternal Reason where nothing begins or ceases. And this is thy Word, which is also "the Beginning," because it also speaks to us. Thus, in the gospel, he spoke through the flesh; and this sounded in the outward ears of men so that it might be believed and sought for within, and so that it might be found in the eternal Truth, in which the good and only Master teacheth all his disciples. There, O Lord, I hear thy voice, the voice of one speaking to me, since he who teacheth us speaketh to us. But he that doth not teach us doth not really speak to us even when he speaketh. Yet who is it that teacheth us unless it be the Truth immutable? For even when we are instructed by means of the mutable creation, we are thereby led to the Truth immutable. There we learn truly as we stand and hear him, and we rejoice greatly "because of the bridegroom's voice," restoring us to the source whence our being comes. And therefore, unless the Beginning remained immutable, there would then not be a place to which we might return when we had wandered away. But when we return from error, it is through our gaining knowledge that we return. In order for us to gain knowledge he teacheth us, since he is the Beginning, and speaketh to us.
11. In this Beginning, O God, thou hast made heaven and earth -- through thy Word, thy Son, thy Power, thy Wisdom, thy Truth: all wondrously speaking and wondrously creating. Who shall comprehend such things and who shall tell of it? What is it that shineth through me and striketh my heart without injury, so that I both shudder and burn? I shudder because I am unlike it; I burn because I am like it. It is Wisdom itself that shineth through me, clearing away my fog, which so readily overwhelms me so that I faint in it, in the darkness and burden of my punishment. For my strength is brought down in neediness, so that I cannot endure even my blessings until thou, O Lord, who hast been gracious to all my iniquities, also healest all my infirmities -- for it is thou who "shalt redeem my life from corruption, and crown me with loving-kindness and tender mercy, and shalt satisfy my desire with good things so that my youth shall be renewed like the eagle's." For by this hope we are saved, and through patience we await thy promises. Let him that is able hear thee speaking to his inner mind. I will cry out with confidence because of thy own oracle, "How wonderful are thy works, O Lord; in wisdom thou hast made them all." And this Wisdom is the Beginning, and in that Beginning thou hast made heaven and earth.
12. Now, are not those still full of their old carnal nature who ask us: "What was God doing _before_ he made heaven and earth? For if he was idle," they say, "and doing nothing, then why did he not continue in that state forever -- doing nothing, as he had always done? If any new motion has arisen in God, and a new will to form a creature, which he had never before formed, how can that be a true eternity in which an act of will occurs that was not there before? For the will of God is not a created thing, but comes before the creation -- and this is true because nothing could be created unless the will of the Creator came before it. The will of God, therefore, pertains to his very Essence. Yet if anything has arisen in the Essence of God that was not there before, then that Essence cannot truly be called eternal. But if it was the eternal will of God that the creation should come to be, why, then, is not the creation itself also from eternity?"
13. Those who say these things do not yet understand thee, O Wisdom of God, O Light of souls. They do not yet understand how the things are made that are made by and in thee. They endeavor to comprehend eternal things, but their heart still flies about in the past and future motions of created things, and is still unstable. Who shall hold it and fix it so that it may come to rest for a little; and then, by degrees, glimpse the glory of that eternity which abides forever; and then, comparing eternity with the temporal process in which nothing abides, they may see that they are incommensurable? They would see that a long time does not become long, except from the many separate events that occur in its passage, which cannot be simultaneous. In the Eternal, on the other hand, nothing passes away, but the whole is simultaneously present. But no temporal process is wholly simultaneous. Therefore, let it see that all time past is forced to move on by the incoming future; that all the future follows from the past; and that all, past and future, is created and issues out of that which is forever present. Who will hold the heart of man that it may stand still and see how the eternity which always stands still is itself neither future nor past but expresses itself in the times that are future and past? Can my hand do this, or can the hand of my mouth bring about so difficult a thing even by persuasion?
14. How, then, shall I respond to him who asks, "What was God doing _before_ he made heaven and earth?" I do not answer, as a certain one is reported to have done facetiously (shrugging off the force of the question). "He was preparing hell," he said, "for those who pry too deep." It is one thing to see the answer; it is another to laugh at the questioner -- and for myself I do not answer these things thus. More willingly would I have answered, "I do not know what I do not know," than cause one who asked a deep question to be ridiculed -- and by such tactics gain praise for a worthless answer. Rather, I say that thou, our God, art the Creator of every creature. And if in the term "heaven and earth" every creature is included, I make bold to say further: "Before God made heaven and earth, he did not make anything at all. For if he did, what did he make unless it were a creature?" I do indeed wish that I knew all that I desire to know to my profit as surely as I know that no creature was made before any creature was made.
15. But if the roving thought of someone should wander over the images of past time, and wonder that thou, the Almighty God, the All-creating and All-sustaining, the Architect of heaven and earth, didst for ages unnumbered abstain from so great a work before thou didst actually do it, let him awake and consider that he wonders at illusions. For in what temporal medium could the unnumbered ages that thou didst not make pass by, since thou art the Author and Creator of all the ages? Or what periods of time would those be that were not made by thee? Or how could they have already passed away if they had not already been? Since, therefore, thou art the Creator of all times, if there was any time _before_ thou madest heaven and earth, why is it said that thou wast abstaining from working? For thou madest that very time itself, and periods could not pass by _before_ thou madest the whole temporal procession. But if there was no time _before_ heaven and earth, how, then, can it be asked, "What wast thou doing then?" For there was no "then" when there was no time. 16. Nor dost thou precede any given period of time by another period of time. Else thou wouldst not precede all periods of time. In the eminence of thy ever-present eternity, thou precedest all times past, and extendest beyond all future times, for they are still to come -- and when they have come, they will be past. But "Thou art always the Selfsame and thy years shall have no end." Thy years neither go nor come; but ours both go and come in order that all separate moments may come to pass. All thy years stand together as one, since they are abiding. Nor do thy years past exclude the years to come because thy years do not pass away. All these years of ours shall be with thee, when all of them shall have ceased to be. Thy years are but a day, and thy day is not recurrent, but always today. Thy "today" yields not to tomorrow and does not follow yesterday. Thy "today" is eternity. Therefore, thou didst generate the Coeternal, to whom thou didst say, "This day I have begotten thee." Thou madest all time and before all times thou art, and there was never a time when there was no time.